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Evidence won't stand if found by sniffing canines

Maryland residents may be aware that the U.S. Supreme Court decided on March 26 that canines cannot sniff the front door of a residence because it violates the Fourth Amendment rights of those who live there. If law enforcement personnel want to find evidence of drug crimes, they must request a search warrant first.

In the case of Florida v. Jardines, the justice for the majority defended the higher standard of protection for a person's residence and called it the "first among equals." The police have the right to knock on the door like any ordinary citizen but may not use canines to sniff around the residence looking for contraband. However, law enforcement can still use canines in drug detection of vehicles, packages and airport luggage.

The case in question involves a Miami law enforcement officer who responded to a tip of someone growing marijuana in their home. When the canine signaled the presence of marijuana, police requested a search warrant and located 25 pounds of the drug. They took the man into custody for trafficking marijuana. However, the trial court did not admit the evidence since the search was ruled invalid. The Florida Supreme Court agreed, so the state appealed to the Supreme Court.

The dissenting opinion argued that anyone can smell aromas that come from a person's residence and the occupants of the home should understand that risk if they break the law. A canine will smell things that humans can't detect.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the standard that a man's home is his castle. A criminal defense lawyer might be able to argue that evidence should be suppressed in cases where this standard is violated.

Source: The Daily Chronic, "US Supreme Court Limits Front Door Drug Dog Sniffs," Phillip Smith, March 27, 2013

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Law Offices of
James N. Papirmeister, Esq.

Law Offices of James N. Papirmeister, Esq.
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As Published in Washingtonian Magazine | Washington's Best Legal Minds | 2013